CUTLER RIDING OUT OF TOWN?
Pat Bowlen’s awful winter continued this week with franchise quarterback Jay Cutler demanding a trade. Bowlen fired close friend/coach Mike Shanahan and thought he had hired the right offensive mind, Josh McDaniels, who would team with Cutler for the next decade.
Now things have deteriorated so much that Broncos’ general manager may have no choice but to trade Cutler before next month’s draft. The market might erupt for Cutler even though he has never made the playoffs and has a 17-21 career record. Here are six teams that might have a fit for Cutler:
• Detroit: The most obvious choice because the Lions have three of the first 33 picks and a dire need for a quarterback. If the Lions acquire Cutler for a package highlighted by the 20th overall pick, Detroit can choose a left tackle first overall.
• N.Y. Jets: Rex Ryan has added to the defense, but the Jets’ quarterback situation is unsettled, with Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff the two candidates to replace Brett Favre.
• Chicago: The Bears said they’re committed to Kyle Orton (Rex Grossman remains unsigned), but it makes no sense that they wouldn’t at least kick the tires on Cutler to see what kind of player/pick package would be required to do a deal.
•Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers are a good bet to draft a quarterback, so instead of taking a chance on Kansas State’s Josh Freeman (a heavier, slower version of Vince Young), why not deal for Cutler? Tampa Bay has an enormous amount of cap space, so Cutler’s six-year contract isn’t a stumbling block.
• Minnesota: The Vikings’ quarterback competition is Tarvaris Jackson vs. Sage Rosenfels. Enough said.
• Washington: Would be a disaster. Denver is a football town, but the pressure Cutler would be under in the District would be incomparable to anything else he has faced.
The biggest issue in making a trade for Cutler is producing enough nondraft pieces to satisfy the Broncos, who aren’t that far behind San Diego in the mediocre AFC West.
AROUND THE NFC
• Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot endorsed the selection of D.C. lawyer DeMaurice Smith as the NFL Players Association’s new executive director. “He has no ties to any team or any owner - his only thing is the players,” Smoot said of Smith, who did not play or previously work in the NFL. “In the end, the guys made the right decision, and we got the right person in charge.”
• Nearly 60 New York Giants were present for the start of offseason conditioning this week, intent on fixing the problems that caused an 11-1 team to finish 12-5 and fail to win a game in the playoffs. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora - out for all of 2008 with a knee injury - was one of the participants. “Osi looks very good - he jumped right in,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “I wouldn’t say he’s [100 percent].” In other Giants news, if wideout Plaxico Burress doesn’t return, quarterback Eli Manning hopes second-year player Mario Manningham can develop into the new downfield threat.
• Cory Redding was awarded a seven-year, $50 million extension in 2007 by Detroit for his prowess as a defensive tackle. But now with Seattle after the trade for linebacker Julian Peterson, the Seahawks intend to use Redding as a defensive end on first and second down. He played end in college. To make the switch, Redding said he’s trying to get from the 300-pound range to 285 pounds.
AROUND THE AFC
• Jacksonville has only five receivers under contract after releasing Matt Jones, who spent time in jail this month for violating his probation. The Jaguars’ top receivers are the underwhelming Dennis Northcutt and Troy Williamson. Jones, Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams have all been jettisoned or left unsigned. The Jaguars ranked 20th in yards and 24th in points scored last year.
• Even if it can’t get defensive end Julius Peppers from Carolina, New England has improved this month. The Patriots have added running back Fred Taylor, cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden and wideouts Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis. Peppers is due $16.68 million if he signs his franchise tender, and it would be tough for the Patriots to fit that kind of money (and new contract) under the cap because Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins and Ellis Hobbs are free agents after this year.
• The Week 1 prime-time games will be announced Monday at the owners meeting. Pittsburgh likely will open the schedule with a Thursday night home game (reserved for the previous year’s Super Bowl champion), possibly vs. Baltimore. Arizona would seem natural for the late Monday night game, and the networks are sure to jockey for the first game in Dallas’ new stadium.
INSIDE THE DRAFT
• By adding outside linebacker Julian Peterson, it’s pretty safe that Detroit won’t take Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with the first overall pick. If the Lions and St. Louis go for offensive tackles (Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith) with the first two picks, it would leave Curry for Kansas City at No. 3. The Chiefs’ 10 sacks last year were the fewest in NFL history, so Curry or a pass rusher like Florida State’s Everette Brown could contribute immediately.
• Illinois cornerback and D.C. native Vontae Davis worked out Wednesday at the Illini’s pro day instead of standing on his numbers (including a 4.49-second 40-yard dash) from the combine, and it could make a difference. Davis improved his 40 time to 4.40 seconds and had a 37.5-inch vertical jump, according to NFL.com.
• Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill probably got himself removed from some draft boards because of his arrest last weekend. He was charged with fleeing an officer, reckless driving and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Hill rushed for 3,996 yards for the Badgers, was an early entrant into draft and was projected to go in Rounds 2-4. His stock will fall unless he comes up with a good explanation when he talks to teams.
FRIDAY’S FIVE NEW DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS
Twenty-two teams have changed defensive coordinators this offseason. Here’s a look five of those situations:
1. Dom Capers (Green Bay) - The Packers have 4-3 personnel, but Mike McCarthy hired Capers to transition to a 3-4. A big-time gamble. Aaron Kampman will struggle in his new role.
2. Gregg Williams (New Orleans) - Running his third different defense in as many years, the Genius needs a bounce-back year if he wants a second shot as a coach.
3. Jim Bates (Tampa Bay) - The veteran assistant replaces the iconic Monte Kiffin. The Buccaneers have scrapped the Tampa 2.
4. Greg Mattison (Baltimore) - The Ravens win because of their defense, and it will be up to Mattison to replace Rex Ryan but also play without linebacker Bart Scott, cornerback Samari Rolle and safety Jim Leonhard.
5. Lovie Smith (Chicago) - Bob Babich remains the coordinator, but Smith will take over the defensive playcalling after the Bears slipped from the top five to 28th and 21st the last two years.